Telemedicine may finally be seeing some time in the sun. The up-and-coming technology is cutting its teeth courtesy of COVID-19, and is proving it is here to stay. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Doximity VP Product, Dr. Peter Alperin. The board certified internist can offer interesting perspective on the growing confidence in telemedicine as well as what Doximity is doing to assist doctors and patients, alike.
Doximity is the largest professional medical network in the United States, boasting more than 1,000,000 members since its launch in 2011, offering the medical community news, workflow tools, recruiting, and more to increase efficiency for healthcare providers in helping patients.
When the coronavirus pandemic came about there was a big shift for remote work and healthcare demand spiked. Dr. Alperin explained that now everyone needed to be on telehealth. Prior to COVID-19, the Doximity dialer solution was supporting a million calls a month. “When this thing kicked off, it was supporting a million calls a day.” Evolving from voice to video, the next iteration – Doximity Dialer Video – was launched at the beginning of May. Dr. Alperin noted, “We have one customer, if you will, the provider. We design things that are super easy to use to make them successful.” It was at this point, our conversation paused for the good doctor to send me an SMS. From there, I clicked the link, entered the appointment and there I was, a telemedicine “patient.”
HIPAA regulations have been relaxed a bit since the pandemic began, and it was a good thing according to Dr. Alperin, noting, “It allowed physicians to stay afloat until they figured it out. Right from the get go doctors could use our dialer.” He continued to confirm, “All of all of our tools are 100% HIPAA compliant,” and while regulations are currently relaxed, Dr. Alperin expects enforcement to go back to normal by the end of the year.
Believe it or not, adoption of telemedicine has been an uphill battle up until this point. From the patient perspective, complexity of the tool is a major hindrance. Dr. Alperin explained a platform like zoom for instance, requires you to download an app and requires desktop use; the elderly are not typically the most tech savvy people. As a person that has served as the liaison, wrestling to set seniors up for mobile telehealth, it isn’t always user friendly.
On the caregiver side, there’s a lot of “new” involved. Dr. Alperin illustrated, “needing to figure out the proper workflow for any of these tools. Do they need buffers between visits? How do we set up our day? How do we make sure the patient is prepared for the visit?” Another struggle for physicians in the shift is bedside manner. Something medical professionals learn in med school, now building that rapport is much trickier, “There’s a learning curve for caregivers.”
Dr. Alperin used the Doximity Dialer Video as an example, how to assist caregivers in this transition with a couple simple features. The call nudge capability offers doctors the ability to send a friendly reminder SMS to patients if they are late to an appointment. It ensures the patient is seen and the doctor’s day stays in rhythm with a text notification. We’ll unpack more of the feature set in an upcoming product review.
Overall, “Telehealth is here to stay, it was already creeping and now it’s radically moving up,” explained Dr. Alperin, continuing to say his, “colleagues feel it will stay at a significant level – probably somewhere between 20-30%. There’s no arguing that telemedicine means “better access to patients, new potential income streams for physicians and now healthcare providers know it works and patients like it,” there’s momentum and opportunity. Insurance and payment reform are top areas requiring attention, but this imperfect system is still delivering specialty care to those in remote or underserved areas. In short, “There are a lot of positives to come out of this.”
There will always be a place in medicine for the in office visit, and telemedicine can make them more productive. A diabetic can manage regular doctor visits for maintenance from the comfort of their home. It will “Replace a segment of some appointments,” in addition, physicians can manage other people, easily supervise medical staff, collaborate with treatment teams and gain access to more patients via proficiency.
It’s clear now, there’s a proof-of-concept for telemedicine. COVID-19 proved to turn our world upside down, and when it did, the medical community rallied to the call and was given no other choice but to jump to the front line and embrace the technology of the digital age. Innovation will be critical in seeing through the coronavirus threat, and Doximity will be here to support the patient/doctor journey.